The Technology of Life. A DNA-centric tour of biology.

I am working on a book on DNA, or more precisely, I hope to explain the technology of life in a modern and fun way, with DNA at the center.

Inspired by Rob Fitzpatrick’s very useful book “Write Useful Books”, I am hoping to involve potential readers early and often in the writing process.

This book is for everyone interested in technology and life. Biology in school is often not very compelling - having to memorise the 5 different kind of bones is not overly exciting. As James Somers described it in his marvelous essay I should have loved biology, “astonishing facts were presented without astonishment”.

In my book I hope to rehydrate the biological literature and present life with all the astonishment it is due.

This is not a textbook. The material is intended to captivate and entertain. Readers are not expected to have a working knowledge of biology or chemistry, although in practice I think that most readers will have a technical background and probably have some useful recollection. Some chapters retell basic biological facts, but hopefully in a compelling way. Other chapters expand on some quite advanced subjects, but presented in a way that should be accessible after having invested some time on the basic biological chapters.

In terms of material, I strive to cover the whole gamut down from hydrogen bonds up to if you should have your DNA analysed for fun (no). Not all chapters need to be interesting or relevant for everyone. Again, this is not a textbook - you should be enjoying this work.

It is my hope that the reader will finish the book feeling suitable awed at the majesty of life, and perhaps motivated go on to learn more, or even make a career jump into biology, genetics or related fields.

On this site you’ll find sample chapters and experiments, starting with:

There is already a lot of content on my blog, some of which will be incorporated in the book. The start of this project in 2001 may also be a fun, if somewhat unpolished read: DNA seen through the eyes of a coder.

I know there are typos in the sample chapters, and that things are not yet good. It needs pictures. I am however very interested in hearing if this kind of stuff excites you. Drop me a message on bert@hubertnet.nl if you want to receive a note if the book is done, or if you’d like to be a beta reader. There will be no spam, unless you ask me to keep you updated on the progress.

And of course, real early feedback is also welcome! I’d love to hear what you’d hope to get out of a book like this, and what kind of topics you would be interested in.

Thank you for your interest, and I hope to hear from you!

PS: I tweet regularly about this project on @bert_hu_bert and my dedicated DNA account @DNAntonie.